Re-evaluating Will McDonald and the NY Jets' 2023 draft class

A year later, how does the Jets' draft class stack up?
Will McDonald
Will McDonald / Al Pereira/GettyImages
3 of 4

Israel Abanikanda, RB, NY Jets: Round 5, 143rd overall

  • Grade: C+

There's not much to say about Abanikanda's rookie season, even after a successful time on HBO's Hard Knocks. His thigh injury in preseason, captured on the show, only lingered throughout the season.

It led to him not being able to break through the depth chart nor ending up playing much on special teams after the breakout of fellow Hard Knocks star Xavier Gipson.

Just like going into the 2023 season, Jets fans can only really guess how Abanikanda will play in the RB2 or RB3 role. He'll certainly get more time on the field but it's up to him to get above-average reps on the field.

Israel, Izzy, Abanikanda is a great story, and a Brooklyn native so there's plenty of reason to root for him. Joe Douglas and the Jets get a 'C+' grade here because of the lack of playing time from the rookie, especially because signing Dalvin Cook was a massive waste and Abanikanda could've gotten more reps.

Zaire Barnes, LB, NY Jets: Round 6, 184th overall

  • Grade: C+

You just simply can't give most sixth and seventh-round picks a grade worse than a 'C.' Unless it's a player who got cut before the season or a long snapper, it's really hard to be critical of draft picks later on in the draft.

Zaire Barnes is liked by head coach Robert Saleh, and his athletic abilities and ability to play special teams can only allude to a hopeful future as a rotational linebacker.

Of course, you'd want Barnes to be able to develop into a starter one day, but there's a reason he was drafted in the sixth round. Only so many late-round picks can become starters.

I give this a 'C+' due to his lack of playing time and the unknown that lies ahead. I think it's hard to get a good grade as a rookie who didn't play much since we know the goal is to develop him. Time will only tell if Barnes will become a productive member of the Jets moving forward.